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How Accurate is My Car Mechanic?

mechanic Engine bay

mechanic Engine bay

This article probably should be called, how fair is my mechanic? Lets assume for a second that most people naturally possess an innate instinct to be honest and kind. With this assumption in mind; is your local car mechanic accidentally or otherwise overcharging you for unnecessary car repair work?

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA) the average American spent upwards of $792 USD on new car maintenance in 2021 on their newer vehicle. Think about that, those are new vehicles, SUV, sedans and trucks that are still under warranty.

The vast majority of us are driving older vehicles without warranty, because that coverage has ran out. Do you even bring your older non-warranty covered SUVs to the dealership, Mazda, GM, Honda, etc.?

Are you brave enough to listen to the barrage of necessary and unnecessary work they may try to push on you? The fact is, most car dealerships make the bulk of their profits off their customers with older cars that have expiring warranties. The name of the game is “upselling”, that is when a mechanic tries to charge for work that isn’t needed or fix something that doesn’t needed fixing.

In 2017 Canadian news network CBC Marketplace conducted and in-depth story of how and why some car dealership upsell their customers. They even secretly recorded a mechanic admitting to upselling on repairs.

My experience of “car repair upselling”

I drive a 2013 Chevy Tahoe that has no more warranty left, so you guesed it, I avoid dealerships like the plague. I took my SUV to a local repair shop in my city for two reasons, to switch my tires to winter ready ones and to diagnose my car rough idling issue.

My Tahoe would randomly rough idle, especially at stop lights but once I step on the gas pedal the it goes away. I had no check engine light or any other diagnostic code popup on my vehicle’s dash.

Diagnosing a car issue with an OB2 scanner is no cure-all

That mechanic hooked his OB2 scanner to my SUV to check for any pre-existing issue that may be causing that random rough idling of the Tahoe. No luck, other some other minor codes that were recorded by the car’s computer, nothing really explained the issue.

After finding no concrete faults from the reading my mechanic started to rattle off a bunch of possible causes and fixes, all of them very expensive.

So after changing my Engine oil, rotating and balancing my tires, he told me to keep driving the car around town for a few more days. If the issue came back, he recommends bring my car in for a more thorough diagnosis.

Was my mechanic accurate or trying to upsell?

So I drove my vehicle home, and while in my garage, popped the hood open just to have a look for myself. I noticed a distance written on my engine’s air filter plastic enclosure, my mechanic failed to see that at the shop.

195,000km was written on the cover of the filter, my assumption, that was distance that the filter needed changing. Ironically when I checked my odometer reading, the car had travelled 197,000km at that point in time, that’s a problem.

I then checked the engine air filter, needles to say it was just filthy, a new one was badly needed. I also noticed a sensor inside the engine air filter enclosure – this is called a MASS AIRFLOW sensor – that also appeared dirty.

My solution saved me money on car repairs?

I immediately did my research online, and found the right engine air filter for my SUV and also found a mass airflow sensor cleaner spray. Needles to say doing any work in your car isn’t for the faint of heart and it can get dirty (also can harm you).

Changing out the engine air filter was simple and straightforward working with a simple Philips screw driver. The MASS AIRFLOW sensor was a little more challenging to access and apply the spray cleaner, but I did it all in a matter of minutes.

engine bay 1
Numerous issues can cause rough idling :image courtesy Joshua-Aragon – unsplash

I have been driving my SUV (over 300 miles now) for weeks now with no issues at all. No more rough idling at stop signs or stop lights and I get even better my gas mileage since (I will need to drive a few more miles to accurately access this claim though).

Was my mechanic wrong or greedy?

Now, I am not saying one hundred per cent my mechanic was lying or overselling me for one simple reason, every car is different. A mechanic can only work with the information he or she is given by the driver, especially when their diagnostic tools aren’t very helpful.

But, if I’d just took his advice from the start my wallet would have be lighter by hundreds of dollars now. My solutions only cost me a grand total of, $52 dollars, $36 for the engine air filter and $13 dollars for the The MASS AIRFLOW sensor cleaner spray cannister.